Want a good workout? Avoid the morning

I never liked exercising in the morning because I always felt too sluggish.

Well, there’s now evidence that morning workouts are less strenuous but feel more strenuous than afternoon and evening workouts:

Not only are performances better in the late afternoon and early evening, but… heart rates are also higher for the same effort.

One recent study, by the late Thomas Reilly and his colleagues at the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University in England, found that people’s maximum heart rates and sub-maximal heart rates were lower in the morning but that their perception of how hard they were working was the same in the morning as it was later in the day.

Dr. Reilly and his colleague Jim Waterhouse, in a review published this year, also noted that athletes’ best performances, including world records, were typically set in the late afternoon or early evening.

Greg Atkinson, also at Liverpool John Moores University, said that some researchers, noticing that heart rates during exercise were lower in the morning, reasoned the way I did — that people must be more efficient in the morning. It would mean that exercise was easier in the morning. Of course, it seemed harder to me, but I could have been deluding myself. Not really, Dr. Atkinson said. It actually is harder to exercise in the morning.

“Most components (strength, power, speed) of athletic performance are worst in the early hours of the morning,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “Ratings of perceived exertion during exercise have generally been found to be highest in the early morning.”

If you exercise later in the day, your muscles are more flexible and stronger and your heart and lungs are more efficient, said Michael H. Smolensky, an expert in chronobiology, the study of the body clock.

No wonder Kenyans and Ethiopians keep winning the New York and Boston Marathons. For Africans, early morning races feel like afternoon runs! ;–)

Posted by James on Friday, December 11, 2009